Oman has delayed the privatization of the telecom sector until March, more than a year behind schedule, National Economy Minister Ahmad bin Abdulnabi Mekki announced in an interview published on Thursday. The partial privatization of Oman Telecommunications Company, a joint stock firm, was due to be launched at the start of 2000.
"Following the major international telecommunication mergers, our consultants advised us to postpone the privatization process till March 2001," he told the Oman Observer, referring mainly to mergers in Europe.
But Mekki added that the government would speed up the privatization process of various government bodies during the current financial year and set up regulatory authorities for both the telecom sector and postal department.
On Wednesday, the minister announced that Oman has forecast a budget deficit of $811.5 million in 2001, eight percent down on last year's projected deficit. The deficit between $6.387 billion in revenues and spending of $7.198 billion would amount to five percent of gross domestic product, he told a press conference.
The 2001 budget, launching a new five-year development plan, was based on an estimated oil price of $18 per barrel, said the minister whose country is an independent crude producer of around 900,000 barrels per day. Spending in the latest budget was up 5.4 percent over the 2000 budget figure, against an increase in anticipated revenues of 18 percent.
Oman's ruler, Sultan Qaboos bin Said, has pledged to continue wide-ranging economic reforms and boost the role of the private sector, in a bid to move the Gulf Arab state away from its heavy dependence on oil revenues.
Development of gas resources to drive an industrialization campaign has been at the center of the diversification efforts, and Oman launched exports of liquefied natural gas in April 2000. — (AFP, Riyadh)
© Agence France Presse 2001
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com )